Honda Aircraft is preparing to ramp up production by 25%, to five HondaJet Elites per month from the current four, by next year.

The transition is hoped to begin “late this year or next year,” depending on the level of automation to be incorporated in the wing assembly process, Honda Aircraft president and CEO Michimasa Fujino told ShowNews. Company engineers are still researching what kind of automation will be brought in. A 82,000-sq.-ft. extension of the Greensboro, North Carolina factory is due to open in July 2020 for the automated wing assembly (along with some parts storage).

The space freed in the current building will be “needed in future.” Fujino would not answer a question on whether this would be for a second aircraft in the airframer’s product line. Offering a larger, longer-range version of the HondaJet family would help improve Honda Aircraft’s bottom line, says Rolland Vincent, a consultant with Rolland Vincent Associates.

This year, Honda plans to deliver 50 aircraft. Last year’s deliveries, at 37, were slower than 2017’s. The decrease was due to the transition to the Elite model, the impact of the governmental shutdown and some fleet deliveries that slid out to 2019, Fujino said.

The order backlog is equivalent to one year of production, he says.

Small jet air taxi operator GlobeAir is considering renewing its fleet of 20 Mustangs, starting in 2022. For that future order, the HondaJet is competing with the Embraer Phenom 100 EV and the Cessna Citation M2. Fujino believes his aircraft’s strong point is comfort, thanks to cabin space and quietness.

As for pilot training, the second flight simulator is likely to be installed in France or the UK and the decision will be made by year-end, Fujino says.

The HondaJet Elite sells for $5.281 million.